Leadership: Collaborative not Confrontational - Understanding Leadership from the Perspectives of Angami Women Leaders

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Pereira SJ, Anand
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This study employed the qualitative method of Grounded Theory to understand leadership from the perspectives of specific women belonging to the Angami Naga tribe, which is one of the major tribes of northeast India. The Nagas are patrilineal, and public leadership is in the hands of men. Yet Naga women have exhibited strong leadership abilities at crucial moments in their history. Getting the State of Nagaland to ban the sale of alcohol, diffusing tension among the heavily armed Naga factions, and getting the powerful Indian army to re-think some of its strategies in the region are some examples of their successes. Even though women from all Naga tribes residing in Nagaland have contributed to the success of these efforts, this study focused only on a small group of Angami women in order to understand their perspectives of leadership. This investigation explored the factors that have led to the development of leadership among these Angami women in the past, and the factors that continue to support them at present. A theory of leadership was then developed based on the perceptions of the participants of the investigation. The Grounded Theory approach was employed to analyze data gathered through a series of in-depth interviews with 14 Angami women and focus group interviews with a group of six Angami women, all of whom were recognized as leaders in their communities. The individual interviews and the focus group interviews were conducted in the months of November and December 2011. Data revealed that the primary cause for the development of leadership among these Angami women was the lack of the presence of men in their communities. The development of leadership was enhanced by five key intervening conditions: culture, charisma, commerce, Christianity and circumstances. The women also chose to use six strategies to accomplish the purpose of developing leadership among them. The six strategies are: cultural, economic, spiritual, emotional, educational, and legal. The approach adopted by the women was, as one of the respondents stated, “collaborative not confrontational,” as a result of which they were able to gather allies to support their cause. Since the strategies chosen by the women were culturally appropriate and contextually expedient, they were able to make their leadership acceptable and legitimate in the eyes of Angami society. The theory developed through this study argues that women living in contexts where they are blocked from occupying public leadership can still succeed in developing their leadership abilities if they use strategies that are culturally appropriate and contextually expedient. This study pursued a three-fold goal. The first was to help receptive Angami women to recognize and appreciate their potential for leadership and help them to develop it further. The second was to offer women living in similar conditions as the Angamis some insights to develop their own leadership abilities, using the model of the Angamis. The third was to offer suggestions to people working for the empowerment of women. The study has successfully fulfilled this three-fold goal, while also contributing to the general literature on women’s leadership.
Creighton University
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